BY RYAN WELLICOME
The town of Blackfalds has continued to see an increase in population despite low provincial population growth and economic strife.
According to Blackfalds’ 2016 census report, its resident population has increased by 8.15% (717 individuals) from April 2015 in comparison to an Alberta average of 1.8%.
Blackfalds’ population has continued to grow over the last year, in comparison to a population decline of approximately 1% in neighboring Red Deer.
Mayor Melodie Stol said there are a number of contributing factors.
“We have a number of subdivisions in progress and that results in people having a fair bit of choice with their purchasing dollar when buying a new home,” she said.
According to Stol, prospective homebuyers can choose from multiple development areas in addition to a variety of homebuilders. “You can really choose to build with who you want and pick a location that suits you quite easily,” she said.
“I think the home-purchaser really appreciates that opportunity.”
The number of dwellings in Blackfalds saw a 5% increase since April 2015 from 3,917 to 4,095 while homes either vacant or under construction dropped from 830 units to 680.
Single detached homes account for 77% of residences while multi-family dwellings comprise 19%.
According to the census, over 75% of Blackfalds’ population is under 40 years old.
Stol said the community’s amenities, current and forthcoming, appeal to this specific demographic and, therefore, also play a role. “Some of the new services and programs that we’re putting in place for the town are really attractive to those age groups.”
Wolf Creek Public School’s Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus will open its doors this September along with St. Gregory the Great K-9 Catholic school in September of 2017.
Stol also cited the Abbey Centre recreation complex as being a draw for the community.
She said that Blackfalds’ consistent growth has facilitated those social and education building projects seen in the town.
“We’ve had to do some convincing of people in other levels of government that Blackfalds growth is not a one hit wonder,” she said. “It’s a trend and it’s been trending upwards and we can prove that trend,” she added.
“We’re taking the steps to prove that, to document it, to make that statistical argument so that we can continue to lobby for the services to match the growth.”
Blackfalds’ population has seen an 85% increase in the last decade and has risen by at least 5.75% each year since 2011.
Blackfalds saw its most significant increases in 2009 and 2011 with 15% and 14% jumps, respectively.
Despite Alberta’s current economic climate, Stol claims Blackfalds has been resilient and its people have weathered the storm. “We’re seeing that (people) are fairly resilient in Blackfalds. People are finding work in other fields, even if it’s temporary work,” she said.
The trades and natural resource sectors, combined, encompass 41% of Blackfalds’ workforce.
“I think they’ve found, in general, Central Alberta is a fairly attractive place to live. It gives you a fairly wide scope of area where you can work, whether it’s in natural resources or another field,” she said.
“We are all walking that walk together as Albertans.”